Establishing Expectations About Scaling

Here's an all-too-common scenario inside of a CrossFit affiliate:

You have a new member come in and go through your Elements program. Their first class in "general population" is Grace. This new member was once an athlete and still considers himself to be pretty fit.

You're warming the class up and you let him know you think he should do the workout with 95# on the bar. He gives you the thumbs up.

You go through the skills and technique portion of class. Members begin loading up their bars for the workout. 

Your new athlete notices that many of the women around him are also loading their bars to 95#. He thinks, "Oh hell no. I can do more than they can," and sets off in search of a couple 45# plates.

You remind him that you agreed 95# was going to be appropriate for him, but he insists that if that's the weight women are doing, he can do more.

And this small thing morphs into an emotional clash.

That's because class number one is already too late to talk about scaling. That's something you need to clarify the first day they're in the gym, when there's no emotion involved, when they're all by themselves or when you have the entire Elements class scaling. 

In those situations, he understand he's not scaling because he isn't good enough, but because that's your procedure. You give him all the reasons and rationale behind scaling. He understands that you're looking for a low trajectory toward a distant horizon. He learns that the fitness we're aiming for isn't going to be found tomorrow, but two years from now. 

So, day one of Elements, we talk about scaling.

It's not enough just to talk about it, though. Our actions once he leaves Elements have to match what we've talked about.

The conversation should go something like this:

We want you to continue working on mechanics and consistency before we start playing with intensity. For that reason, we're going to have you go with 50% of the load and 50% of the volume for every workout during your first month of classes.

For month two, we'll ramp that up a bit -- we'll have you do 75% of the load and 75% of the volume. We'll use this as a general rule and tweak and scale things every day. But 75% will be our base.

After that, heading into month three, we'll sit down and put a plan together based on where you're at and how we're feeling.

I know Elements formally ends in two sessions, but I want you to understand that it doesn't actually end for two months. 

Cool with that?

Now it's all laid out, so when you get into class it's, "Hey, we're going to do 95# and 15 reps, and we're going to do 3 reps on the minute."

He gives you a thumbs up because he understands why -- that he's aiming for proper mechanics and technique, and that intensity will come later.
You can't reach that understanding in the heat of the moment.

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